By: Whitley Edwards, Burns Group Associate Creative Director
November 8, 2016 was one of the most emotionally draining days of my life. In the matter of 24 hours I went from being giddy over the progress we’d made on the gender equality front—elated to be casting my vote for the first female president – to completely distraught about how wrong I had been about it all.
Throughout the election season they called Hillary calculated. When what they meant was, she’s strategic about her career moves. THE AUDACITY! They called her shrill. When what they meant was, she refuses to let men interrupt or speak over her. THE NERVE! They called her cold because she didn’t walk around with a smile plastered on her face 24/7. THE OUTRAGE!
She was arguably the single most qualified presidential candidate in American History and yet that still wasn’t enough. But the thing I really couldn’t begin to fathom about it all, is that it wasn’t just men—51% of white women also didn’t vote for her—51% of white women didn’t show up at the poles for a woman that’s dedicated her entire life to fighting for their (women) rights. Excuse me, what?
Some people think 2016 ended up being a good thing because it got people fired up. There have been marches, empowering ads and photo ops galore, and a lot of truths finally told. And I agree all of those things have been amazing! But when it comes to equality by the numbers, we really haven’t moved the needle as much as most of us think. In fact, in 2018 we actually backslide—only 5 percent of women are Fortune 500 CEOs—down from a record high of 6 percent in 2017. (I repeat record high of 6 percent?!)
When Catalyst came to us with a brief for International Women’s Day, Meghan (my creative partner) and I were 100% aligned on one thing: this couldn’t just be another awareness campaign. No, whatever we did was going to have some sort of actionable component. Because honestly, WTF. How is it that we can text an emoji to get a pizza delivered to us, but yet are still decades away from achieving gender equality?
We found the answer in Catalyst’s research: unconscious gender bias.
Basically, it says when a woman exhibits what is interpreted as a feminine leadership style she’s isn’t seen as competent, but yet when she exhibits what is considered to be a more masculine leadership style, she isn’t seen as likable. Meaning when she exhibits the exact same traits as male leaders—traits we praise men for— we label her negatively, because she isn’t behaving how we as a society thinks a female should. Yep, basically women are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.
And since it’s unconscious even the most progressive humans among us—the ones that full-heartedly believe in gender equality—are also still guilty of perpetuating it, because gender stereotypes are so deeply ingrained in all of us. Making it the biggest invisible barrier for women in the workplace. Those same studies also show however, that once an individual is capable of actually seeing their bias, then they can override it.
So we said to each other, “What if we created a spell check, but for gender bias?”
The #BiasCorrect Plug-In as it’s now known launches this International Women’s Day, as part of a larger integrated campaign packed-full of bad ass women (including the one and only, HRC) who are helping us make the world see these gender bias label for what they really are, one definition at a time.
While I by no means think this—or any tool—is an instant solution, I do hope it’s a step in the right direction. At the very least, I hope it inspires others to explore more ways we can leverage technology to tackle inclusion issues.
And the coolest thing about this all (besides Hillary joining) is that none of this would be happening without the amazing team of women at Catalyst and Burns Group.